Adoption is the process by which a legal parent-child relationship is created between individuals not biologically parent and child. Adoption law is generally governed by state law, which varies by state. In most cases, adopted children may inherit on an equal basis with biological children under state laws of distribution upon death of a parent. Adoption also affects other issues, such as social security and taxes. In some states, doctrines of “equitable adoption” allow courts to recognize adoptions when not all legal procedures have been complied with.
The adoptive parents must file a petition for adoption with the court and go through an adoption hearing. Before the hearing, state laws, which vary by state, require anyone who is required to consent to the adoption to receive notice. Usually, this includes the biological parents, the adoption agency, the child’s legal representative if a court has appointed one, and the child himself if he is old enough.
A hearing will be conducted in court and if it is determined that adoption is in the child’s best interest, the judge will issue an order approving and finalizing the adoption. This order, often called a final decree of adoption, legalizes the new parent-child relationship, and usually changes the child’s name to the name the adoptive parents have chosen.
Even if you do use an agency, it is advisable to hire a lawyer to draft the adoption petition and to represent you at the hearing. The adoption process can be quite complex and should be handled by someone with experience and expertise. Adoption attorneys also assist individuals seeking legal assistance during an investigation of their adoption records.